Comic Sans Must Die

Comic Sans Must Die

Love it or hate it, Comic Sans is one of the most popular fonts in the world.

Vincent Connare designed the font for Microsoft in 1995. He described it is best being used for “new computer users and families with children”. Despite this it has constantly been misused and can be seen everywhere from school letters, e-mails from government officials and even in documents about the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

Since it was unleashed on the world there have been multiple calls by designers for the font to be abolished completely, most famously by the Ban Comic Sans website.

Comic Sans Must Die is a project that satisfies every designer’s dream: to see Comic Sans die a slow and painful death. Every day the individual glyphs of Comic Sans will have their demise displayed for all to see.

Comic Sans Must Die is a project conceived by me with code contributions from Richard Clifford.

Click here to view

Create your own glitch typeface

Making Dataface was really quite an exciting journey. What started off as an attempt to make a typeface inspired by glitch art turned out to be a story of collaboration, exploration and hours of research. Here, I will go through my process.

As you may have seen from my previous experiments in vector databending it’s totally possible to manipulate vector files. My original method for creating Dataface was to save each glyph in the Liberation font to an SVG file and then go through the process of glitching it for each file. Obviously this would’ve taken me a long time, hence why there was very little activity between my original announcement in January and when I started work on it again a few weeks ago.

At this time I thought about writing a script to do this for me. sed is a great command-line utility for Linux that essentially does the same as using find/replace on a character. As it’s command-line it means I can do a lot of automation with it. So, I wrote this simple script that attempted to solve the problem

[sourcecode language=”bash”]#!/bin/bash
rand=$(($RANDOM % 9))
sed -i s/[0-9]/$rand/g fontfile.svg[/sourcecode]

The only problem was that it would replace all numbers in the file with whatever random value was chosen by $rand as the script was executed. Not only is this bad because it would result in a lot of strangely similar glyphs but also because it would modify the header data of the font file, thus rendering it unreadable. I soon remembered that recently the SVG Font specification was finished, which aided my cause by putting all of the glyphs in one big file, but I still couldn’t find a way to efficiently randomise values in the file.

Thankfully fizzPOP came to my rescue. I’m glad that hackerspaces have people with a range of abilities in hardware and software, as I was soon presented with a solution to my problem by GB. After a few revisions he created a script that would replace only specific values in the file and wold even let you specify how much it should be randomised. You can download the finished script and source files and have a go for yourself.

Click to download


Simplified instructions on compiling the script:

  • Unzip the file in a clean folder. This will give you three files:Font_Sample_-_Liberation_Sans.svg, glitch.l and makefile
  • Type “make” into the command line (without the quote)
  • If you haven’t got make, type:
    [sourcecode language=”bash”]flex -t glitch.l >glitch.c[/sourcecode]

    [sourcecode language=”bash”]gcc -o glitch glitch.c[/sourcecode]

in either case, you will get a program called “glitch”.

Please note this has only been tested on Linux, requires Flex (available in the Ubuntu repository) and it is designed to work on SVG font files. I only know FontForge that is able to create these fonts files. To run the script do the following

[sourcecode language=”bash”]./glitch 0.50 outputfile.svg[/sourcecode]

That tells the script to glitch the file by 50%. I have noticed that sometimes you get errors if you put in 1.00 or more.

Once you have generated the file you can import it back into FontForge to save as a .ttf, .otf or whatever font type you choose!

(I still hate Comic Sans)

Here’s everyone’s favourite Comic Sans glitched at 50%

I Am Sitting In A Room

Inspired by Alvin Lucier‘s I Am Sitting in a Room piece I have taken Dataface one step further

In glitch art we only ever see result of the process of damaging an image, video or sound. Rarely can we observe this process as it happens within the computer in an instant. Using Alvin Lucier’s 1969 piece I Am Sitting in a Room as inspiration, in this piece I show the many steps taken to damage data to the point where it loses all meaning.

Font files are files that attribute a style to the otherwise plain text that we see on screen. The computer treats this only as an attribute of the text and can understand it regardless of what font file is used or how it looks to the viewer.

In this piece I have used a script, created in collaboration with G Bulmer, that explores the font file and damages it by randomising the values that construct each glyph. The computer, doing only what it has been instructed to do, continually attacks the font files’ data to the point where it is sometimes corrupted and not even it can interpret it correctly.

The resulting video shows the gradual damaging of the data. The viewer will struggle to find meaning amongst the visual noise whilst the computer still understands it.

The full text reads:

I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I have typed out this text using a font called Dataface and I am going to randomise parts of the font file’s code and save the results of it again and again, until it’s appearance becomes illegible and the font file is destroyed. What you will see, then, are the effects of randomisation, with the occasional glitch that occurs when the font file is so badly damaged that the computer is unable to read it. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of my ability to edit fonts but more a way to eliminate all meaning that this text might have.


After months of hard work I’m happy to finally release Dataface

Click to download

Special thanks go to various hackers at fizzPOP for all of their help, GB for programming help and Scribbleboy for general guidance. You can view of preview of the font here on Flickr.

There will soon be a lovely writeup of how it was done and the tools to use to create your own. Until then, I hope you enjoy Dataface!

Dataface update

Dataface is coming along rather nicely!

Dataface (by hellocatfood)

It looks different from my previous updates as I’m using a different method for glitching the typeface. This may change yet again if a script that I’m working on decides to work.